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New audiologist at Cape Eye Center

By Staff | Apr 26, 2009

The senses go together hand in hand — especially vision and hearing — according to physicians at Cape Coral Eye Centers.
That’s why they have hired a full-time audiologist to work at their main center in Cape Coral. She will also serve the North Fort Myers area.
Dr. Karen Major, AuD, is the new director of audiology. As a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, Major is an expert in all areas of audiology or hearing, including adult and pediatric diagnostics, treatment, and rehabilitation.
“In our country there are almost 32 million people with hearing loss right now, which is a staggering number and they say only about 20 percent of those with hearing loss do something about their hearing problem,” said Major. “Balance, and a lot of disorders that give people eye problems like diabetes — a big one — can also give you hearing loss. Some can have both going on at the same time.”
Hearing loss is not only a health issue, but a safety issue as well, she said.
“I have patients who literally don’t hear their smoke alarms, they don’t hear door bells in the house, warning sounds in your car, things that start dinging,” she said.
They also can’t discern which direction a car is coming when they are walking down the street, she said.
It’s a social barrier as well.
“Many of my older patients are as active as I am,” she continued. “They come to Florida, do all of these activities, have friends and go to meetings. They are doing so much, and if they can’t hear, they’re either not going and become reclusive, or they are going and shaking their head yes because they really didn’t hear the question. It becomes a big problem.”
Major will work out of the main Cape Coral Eye Center several days a week, and at the North Fort Myers center located at 18770 Tamiami Trail N. (across from Del Tura) the other days.
Medical Director Dr. Farrell Tyson II is in charge of all of the centers. Known as an innovator in the eye care field, he said it was important to bring an audiologist on board to offer the connected care.
It was a logical transition, he said.
“It used to be EENT – ears, eyes, nose and throat. Now we’re going back full circle,” he said. “We’ve always had a very good patient relationship and we would get a lot of patients referred for balance because of the relationship of eyes and ears. Physicians would send patients to us to examine the eyes first. A lot of patients would then ask, ‘you don’t do anything about hearing, do you’? So after a few years of hearing that, we thought it would be nice to be able to offer audiology.”
Tyson also said the Cape was under-served from an audiology standpoint.
“North Fort Myers is also under-served,” he said. “Our patients have been coming into the Cape, so that’s why we wanted to get an office set up in North Fort Myers as well so they wouldn’t have to drive as far.”
While there are many hearing aid dispensers in the area, audiologists do more to find the root of the cause. An audiologist is a physician who goes through extensive training and can perform numerous tests.
“There may be someone who has hearing loss because something is going on in their body, it may be a tumor, a growth, a reaction to drugs or another problem,” said Major. “If you just get a hearing screening you may not catch the problem.”
Testing with an audiologist is much more comprehensive, especially in centers with the latest equipment. The local centers will now offer full hearing evaluation for balance and tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and more, and there is an educational component after testing.
Major is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., and did her undergraduate work at the University of Massachusetts.
“I went back home to do my master’s program,” she said. “I originally went to school thinking I would do special education, that’s what my mother does, she works with autistic children. In one of my courses they were discussing children with special needs, and how they can also have speech and hearing problems. I thought to myself, that’s interesting.”
So she took her first audiology course to fulfill a science requirement.
“That was it,” she said, finding the field of audiology fascinating.
She completed externships at such notable facilities as Brooklyn College, Queens Hospital and Bellevue Hospital. After extensive training she graduated top of her class, moved to Florida, and got her Doctoral degree in audiology at the University of Florida.
Major is certified by the American Academy of Audiology and the state of Florida.
What does she like about her chosen field?
“I’m a people person,” she said. “I like being with people, I like the patients and helping people.”
She also enjoys the wide range of patients she sees.
“You can test a baby, then your next patient could be 97-years-old, so it’s a very diverse field, which is fun for me,” she said. “And being in healthcare, you’re able to help patients get to a better place in their life. It’s very rewarding. I also get more one-on-one time with my patients than most doctors.”
She commented specifically about her older patients.
“Over the age of 65, 35 percent have hearing loss and over the age of 85, that jumps to around 50 percent,” Major said. “And as you get older you can have changes in your balance system, which is really scary, because once you start falling you are at risk for breaking a hip or other consequences.”
Major’s equipment is high tech, like video goggles and computers used in testing.
“People think they might have to spin around on a table or walk a balance beam, but it’s nothing like that at all,” she said.
She said many people in the past have shied away from getting a hearing aid, for cosmetic reasons, concerned about wearing the big, heavy hearing aids of the past.
“There is research that has come out that the stigma of wearing a hearing aid is finally going away,” she said.